President Joe Biden’s administration has lost another case before the U.S. Supreme Court in a rare unanimous decision.
The justices banded together to issue a 9-0 ruling to limit “the reach of the federal Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, unanimously rebuffing the Biden administration’s efforts to prosecute a man already convicted of Medicaid fraud with a separate charge of aggravated identity theft arising out of the same fraud case.”
The ruling, Dubin v. United States, was authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a concurring opinion. The Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act mandates a two-year prison sentence for violations. When President George W. Bush signed the law in 2004, he said it established the federal “offense of aggravated identity theft” to ensure that someone convicted of that crime would receive jail time “for stealing a person’s good name.”
“These punishments will come on top of any punishment for crimes that proceed from identity theft,” Bush said then, adding it “raises the standard of conduct for people who have access to personal records through their work at banks, government agencies, insurance companies, and other storehouses of financial data.”
However, the Supreme Court rejected the argument put forth by the U.S. Department of Justice that petitioner David Fox Dubin was automatically guilty under the act due to the inclusion of the patient’s Medicaid reimbursement number as a “means of identification” on a fraudulent Medicaid billing form.
Dubin held the position of managing partner at PARTS, a company based in Austin, Texas, which was established by his father, licensed psychologist William Dubin. Both individuals were convicted by a U.S. district court for their involvement in a scheme to defraud the Medicaid program in the Lone Star State.
Constrained by the precedent set by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, the U.S. district court upheld Dubin’s conviction for aggravated identity theft, despite recognizing that the central focus of the case was fraudulent billing rather than identity theft.
In March 2022, a divided 5th Circuit affirmed the conviction, even though it acknowledged that, per the government’s interpretation of the act, “the elements of [the] offense are not captured or even fairly described by the words ‘identity theft.’”
This is the second time in a week that the Supreme Court has ruled against the Biden administration.
The Biden administration just got stung with yet another unanimous ruling from the Supreme Court, which of course, included his nominee, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
In a 9-0 ruling, the Supreme Court found on Friday that some individuals convicted of gun crimes may receive reduced prison sentences. In those cases, gun-related offenses can be served concurrently.
“Congress could certainly have designed the penalty scheme at issue here differently. But Congress did not do any of these things. And we must implement the design Congress chose,” Jackson wrote in the ruling.
District courts typically possess discretion in determining whether prison sentences should run concurrently or consecutively. However, specific laws may prohibit the imposition of concurrent sentences in certain circumstances, the outlet noted further.
Efrain Lora, the individual who initiated the case, was found guilty of aiding and abetting an individual involved in drug trafficking or a violent crime while carrying or using a firearm. Lora was also convicted of conspiracy to distribute drugs.
Lora, along with three accomplices, engaged in cocaine trafficking and committed a murder of a rival drug dealer in 2002 in New York City, stemming from a territorial dispute. U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe, who President George W. Bush appointed, sentenced Lora based on a law that prohibits concurrent sentences for offenses that involve one of the crimes for which Lora was convicted.
Lora received a 25-year prison term for the conspiracy charge, followed by an additional five years for the other crime. An appeals court later upheld the decision.
Lora also argued that his sentences should have been concurrent, noting that the law cited by the judge didn’t cover the aiding and abetting offenses. Federal prosecutors agreed and argued on appeal that the lower courts got it right and that Supreme Court had no need to review the case.
But all nine justices sided with Lora.